According to Forbes magazine, by the year 2030, millennials will represent 75% of the work force population. But, why should this be important and why do we need to understand them better?
Millennials are the demographic cohort following generation X and typically include individuals born in the early 1980’s as starting birth years, through to the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s as ending birth years. They are marked by an increased use and familiarity with communication, media, and digital technologies and they also have liberal approaches to politics and economics. The reason it is important to understand this group is because they are currently the movers and shakers of the political and economic spheres. However, they also hold a very specific set of belief systems, which influence the way in which they make sense of their world. It is also these belief systems which may lead to irrational expectations, relationship breakdown, emotional distress and an inability to cope in the workforce. Here are some of the reasons it is so hard being a millennial.
- Their basic traits
The words often used to describe this generation include “special”, “sheltered”, “confident”, “team-orientated”, “conventional”, “pressured” and “achieving”. The word here which is most problematic to this generation is “special”. Now this is a generation who was brought up to think “if you can dream it, you can do it”, “you can do whatever you set your mind to”, “and we are all winners”. Hey, they even got trophies just for showing up! However, this is not how the world works… Unfortunately; it is irrational to think that you can achieve anything and everything just because you believe you can. Yes, motivation is a great thing to have, but the expectation of achieving something out of pure will, without the notion of working for it, seems a bit delusional. What makes this belief so dangerous is that this generation has no notion of patience; they tend to expect immediate gratification. As a result, they sit with tremendous drive and high expectations, with a sense of entitlement and narcissism (more like “generation me”!) but no skill set to achieve this or manage the emotional implications that accompany these expectations. The end result is that they find themselves in relationships, jobs and structures which they feel to be unfair, unfulfilling and frustrating.
- What they think is important
Due to millennials living in a technology-driven world, they are so used to putting filters on everything that they have no idea how to form and maintain meaningful relationships. It is all about how many “likes” you can get. They have mastered the art of pretending that they are fine, but may live with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and depression. When asked, most of them will tell you that their relationships are very superficial because they know that their “friends” may only be there until something (or someone) better comes along. This mentality is also present in their work ethic: a work relationship is only there as long as it benefits the self. The average tenure of a millennial employee is two years. If they are of the opinion that they are not developing fast enough, they will move. Now this in itself is not a bad thing, millennials have a strong entrepreneurial mindset and the access to technology makes them more efficient problem solvers and critical thinkers. However, this is not contained and they find themselves moving so fast that they ultimately burn themselves out. They truly have become the “Jack of all trades and master of none”!
75% of millennials consider wealth a very important attribute, thus they are training for careers which they may not feel passionate about and to which they will show little commitment. They merely choose these career paths because they have the potential to make them wealthy. I have firsthand experience of this: some of the new doctors I have encountered have no empathy, passion or compassion – they see their profession as a means to a wealthy end and, because of that, are inadequate doctors. Research has found that millennials have a decreased interest in political affairs, “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” and willingness to be involved in environmental issues.
- Workplace attitude
Millennials want a coach, not a boss. Millennials associate job satisfaction with free flow of information, strong connectivity to supervisors and more immediate feedback, or at least that is what the Journal of Business and Psychology says. Because millennials are so focused on the “me” they stress the importance of life-work balance. Unfortunately the current working structures are not suited to millennials’ needs and they may experience immense conflict in both their personal and professional lives, whilst they attempt to create this balance. Millennials strive for balance and democracy in the workplace and they base their performance on output rather than time spent on a project. Millennials have no problem working long hours on a project that requires additional overtime, however they feel frustrated by having to sit around the office, waiting out the clock, just because some policy dictates that they have to be there. The need for constant feedback, mentoring, flexible working hours, immediate gratification and the satisfying of irrational beliefs held about the working environment simply do not fit into the current structure which the “baby-boomers” created, consequently leading to conflict in the workplace and job dissatisfaction.
- “God is dead” attitude
Millennials have coined the term “I am spiritual, but not religious”. Millennials are the least likely to be religious, although most of them have grown up in religious baby-boomer homes. This may stem from the “it’s all about me theory” we referred to earlier, as well as political and economic uncertainties. Because of this, they find themselves torn between spiritual beliefs in “God’s plan and time” versus going out and making it happen for themselves. The lack of religious understanding or affiliation has led this generation to a misperception of spiritual structures, values and norms, which may cause some internal conflict and anger in young adulthood.
Faced with all of this, the question which develops is: are millennials our lost generation? Personally, I think not. I am just of the opinion that this generation and their needs need to be better understood and structured, because there truly is no stopping them (spoken like a true millennial).